People here are very laid back and the feeling is contagious! We managed to go three days without a cup of coffee didn’t seem to mind.
You hear the words “Hakuna Matata” everywhere. Literally.
Internet services down nationwide all day? Hakuna Matata…
Flights cancelled? Hakuna Matata…
Two hours in wall-to-wall rush hour traffic in Kampala? Hakuna Matata…
In the Mukono District, about an hour outside of Kampala, Uganda, we met Edward Mukiibi and Roger Serunjogi, coordinators of the Developing Innovations in School Cultivation (DISC) project. Edward, 23, and Roger, 22 are improving nutrition, environmental awareness and food traditions by establishing school gardens at preschool, day and boarding schools. By teaching kids early about growing, preparing, and eating food they hope to cultivate the next generation of farmers and eaters who can preserve Uganda’s culinary traditions. “If a person doesn’t know how to cook or prepare food, they don’t know how to eat,” says Edward.
One DISC student, 19 year-old Mary Naku, says she’s gained leadership and farming skills from the program. “As youth we have learned to grow fruits and vegetables,” she says, “to support our lives.” Thanks to DISC, students see agriculture as a way to make money, help their communities, and preserve biodiversity.
At the HIV/AIDS Resource Center in Katuna (on the border between Uganda and Rwanda and one of many towns along what is known as the Northern Transport Corridor-a span of highway that stretches from Mombasa, Kenya through Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sudan and all the way to Djibouti), we were introduced to the important work of the Solidarity Center and Uganda’s Amalgamated Transport and General Workers Union (ATGWU). The Solidarity Center is a non-profit launched by the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO), to empower workers around the world by helping them form unions.
The Center and ATGWU are working with truckers, who have some of the highest rates of HIV/AIDS in Eastern Africa due to the frequent and lengthy delays at the border which often lead to boredom, drinking and unsafe sex, by providing care, support and information through one-on-one or community group outreach. The Center also provides free testing for truck drivers, already more than 5,000 of them to date.
We would be remiss if we didn’t mention that Uganda, like most of the countries in Africa, is full of contradictions. While we were there, the “Bahati Bill” was introduced in parliament, calling for life in prison-and in some case the death penalty-for people found “guilty” of homosexual activity. As gay marriage laws are passed around the world, including most recently in Mexico City, it’s hard to believe that lawmakers would punish people for being gay or having HIV/AIDS.
But as we traveled we couldn’t help but immediately feel, and fall in love with, the pulse and energy of the bustling country.
Who we are: BorderJumpers began in October 2009 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia — when Bernard Pollack and Danielle Nierenberg began a journey to travel in Africa. At every stop they are meeting with farmers, community organizers, labor activists/leaders, non-governmental organization (NGOs), the funding and donor communities, and local, regional, and international press.
With a Sony handycam, a 8-year old laptop, and sporadic internet connections – their goal is to bring stories of hope from across the region to as large an audience as possible. They will tell the stories that aren’t being told-from oil workers fighting to have a union in Nigeria to innovative ways farmers and pastoralists are coping with climate change.